Lay aside every weight (and the dairy too): My journey with meat and dairy free products…..

Growing up in Texas, anything containing beef and cheese was a-ok in my book! Nachos, burgers, chicken fried steak with cream gravy- ALL OF THAT was awesome! Yet as a kid, I would burn off those calories by simply running around on the playground. Fast forward to now- I have now realized that all of that meat and dairy aren’t the greatest for optimal health. While I haven’t totally eliminated these things from my diet, I will say that I strive to eat more-plant based foods daily. So…….here are my fave meat-free and dairy-free products:

Gardein– I have to admit, Gardein has consistently put out meat substitutes that are actually GOOD! From the beefless tips to the crabless cakes to the porkless bites (chuckles), I have managed to crank out some pretty tasty meals with their products.

Daiya– So far it is the best cheese substitute out there…..It stretches and melts beautifully. However, the taste is little “off”, but still works for me!

Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast– This stuff has become my best friend! It’s sodium free and helps with the cheesy cravings. It tastes pretty good on popcorn, too! Not to mention that it is absolutely wonderful as taco seasoning (see the pic below).

Earth Balance Buttery Spread– It’s like butter, and a step above regular margarine. I bake with it, scramble my eggs with it, and so on. My kids can’t tell the difference, so why spoil the fun?

Tofutti Vegan Sour Cream– Prior to buying this, I attempted to make vegan sour “cream” with tofu, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Of course, it was a culinary disaster, and I vowed to stick with the store-bought stuff. It makes my life easier.

This is just a tip of the vegan foodie iceberg……More to come!

‘Til next time!

Jamberry vs. Incoco: The nail battle is REAL (UPDATED!!)

(PREFACE: Yes, it has been a while since I posted anything. Instead of explaining my absence, I decided to just talk about anything, just to break the ice! Enjoy!)

Since I have increased my workouts and have now included using weights to battle that #fatdemon (thanks for that term Chrystal Evans Hurst), I have been concerned with the looks of my hair and……nails. Yes, NAILS. Working out is awesome for the body, but can wreak havoc on my ‘do and fingernails. Lately, I have been wanting my hands to look nice and well, feminine while lifting weights. So, I have been searching for something with easy application and requires virtually little to no drying time. Since I have small kiddos, no babysitter and on a tight budget I looked into the idea of trying Jamberry. For those who don’t recognize the brand, Jamberry is a direct sales company offering nail wraps and lacquer free of toxic chemicals. After hearing about the positive reviews, I decided to hunt up a local rep to try out the product. I ordered the french mani nail wraps from the website, which was very easy to navigate. With tax, shipping and handling, I shelled out roughly $22. According to the site, the wraps were good for 2 applications for fingers and toes- which equates to a month of usage. Not bad economically, considering that you can expect to pay $70 (and up) at the nail salon. After a mix up at the post office, my package arrived two weeks later than expected, but I wasn’t terribly hurt by the delay. However, my first application wasn’t as easy as hoped and the wraps actually slid off my fingers by the morning!!!!! Yet, two factors did play a major role: I didn’t prep my nails ( being wiping my nails down with rubbing alcohol to clean and remove excess oils) and using not enough heat to cause the wraps to better adhere to the natural nail. A week after the failure, I re-applied the wraps with much better success than the first go-around. Yet, I could not ignore the wrinkles on some of the nails that due to the limited flexibility of the wraps. ( I should tell you that the wraps are not 100% nail polish, but much like stickers. Stickers that need added heat to stay on the nails. AHEM. ) In all, the wraps lasted a week. By the end, my tips were looking pretty busted (see below in the pic). I mean, I do deal with babies, housework, and weights- SHEESH! But still….. At this point, I picked up Incoco nail polish wraps from Wal-Mart. I was already familiar with the product, but after the Jamberry issues I decided to give it a whirl, and at $4.97, I was on board! Application was a breeze! No wrinkles, enough stretch to go over all the nail- my nails looked fabulous!!!!! In fact, it is day 7 of wear and they still look pretty good! As much as I want to like Jamberry, I think that they should work on the wraps a bit more to make them more user friendly. However, their customer service is awesome…..I recently received a free pack of french mani wraps! Good way to make a gal happy 🙂

‘Til next time!

(UPDATE: So much for “next time”- try next 30 minutes after publishing this post! : My Jamberry rep Valencia assured me that Jamberry is actively working on improving their wraps, and they’re actually launching some new products in July! I cannot wait to get my little greedy hands on the product and do a review! Again, Jamberry’s customer service is stellar and check out my rep’s site if you’re interested: https://valenciavivaciousnails.jamberry.com/us/en/)

I tried it: Sonoma Chardonnay Iced Tea by Republic of Tea

I have a very interesting relationship with booze. Prior to kids, I could count on one hand the number of times that I actually drank – and even then it typically contained an embarrassingly low percentage of alcohol. Since giving birth twice (and subsequently breast fed each child), I have not touched the stuff! But, a FB friend tagged me recently in a pic showcasing this fascinating discovery: V20288 Immediately my interest was piqued! After an unfruitful search at various grocery stores in my area, I decided to order the tea from Amazon. When the first delivery attempt was literally squashed, the company apologized for the delay and shipped the tea ASAP. When I finally received the box, I could not wait to try it out! Upon opening the canister, I noticed a distinct grape-y, floral scent- not quite wine-y, since there was no fermentation (The tea used wine grape skins, bits of pineapple, and “natural wine flavor” for added pizzazz). I followed the brewing directions to a T, and sweetened the concoction with plain white sugar. The end result was decent. Yet I discovered a better way to brew and enjoy this tea. Using my measuring cup, for 2 cups of hot water, I used 2 tea bags, then place the entire thing in the fridge to brew. The stronger flavor came thru when I left the tea steep overnight. Then, as an added kick, I squeezed the juice of a fresh lemon and skipped the sugar altogether. The lemon added the right amount of acidity, while the absence of sugar allowed the tangy yet sweet aroma of pineapple, hints of green apple, and bright notes of the wine grapes to come thru strongly. So, to answer the million-dollar question: does it actually taste like wine? NO! Would I buy it again? ABSOLUTELY! It’s more refreshing than traditional sweet tea and pairs well with chicken and fish. However, it is pricey than the generic box of black tea at your local grocer, so it is definitely a splurge (well-deserved splurge, might I add, but still….). Here are the pics of the tea:

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Til’ next time!

Work work work!

Lately, I had been getting so many requests and questions about working from home: “what’s like?”, “How do I get started?” and the like. Before I get started, let’s be clear: working from home is NOT a skill. I repeat, NOT. A. SKILL! It’s a privilege, and privileges can be taken away! Instead, think of what you can bring to the proverbial table within the setting and privacy of your home. Think of industries that best complement your skill set and goals. Also, embrace the idea of entrepreneurship if you cannot find anything to suit your aspirations. BUT……after all of that, and you’re like “I just want a job from home!!!” OK. I hear you! Just so you know, there are tons of companies out there that hire at home workers. The challenge is where to find ’em! For me, I learned to take a more unconventional approach. I have found the best job leads thru the following:

Babycenter Work at Home community board
Single Moms Income
The Work at Home Wife
Money Saving Mom

You’re probably thinking, “But these are mommy blogs?!” And yes, they cater to the working mom. From my experience, Indeed, Career Builder and such did not meet my needs in the search for remote jobs. With the aforementioned blogs, the content is up to date daily ( if not hourly) and you’re smack dab in the community of like-minded folk. For those who are serious about making money from home, let your fingers do the walking and log on! Let me know if the sites work for you in your search for remote employment!

Truth about working from home……

So… it has been nearly 6 months now since agreeing to work for The World’s Biggest E-Retailer, and as expected, I have learned some pearls of wisdom. Juggling mommy duties, wife expectations, and work responsibilities are never easy, and working from home hasn’t lessen the burden. In fact, it has basically burst the air out of the following lies:

1.) “Working from home means that you can cut daycare out of the equation”. – WELP. Let me explain: working from home is great and it does allow you to be close to your kids when it is especially needed. However, in order to effectively complete the duties of your job, childcare IS needed. Currently, I work a shift opposite my hubby’s, meaning that when he is home, I work and he is in daddy mode for our kids. So far it is working, but for how long…..I don’t know. All I know is that my natural energy level is at its highest from 5 am to 2 pm, while he is at work. So for me, working at night is not preferred but rather out of necessity. So outside childcare may be comin’ around that mountain pretty darn soon.

2.) “Working from home is flexible and you can work whenever you want!”- That aforementioned statement really depends on your line of work. Even so, you must manage your time properly. For those who conduct project-based work assignments, I assume that those individuals can do 2 hours here and another 4 hours there in order to complete the task at hand. But for those who electronically “clock in/out” between available work hours of 6 am and 11 pm CST (such as myself), I have to force myself to carve out a schedule that not only works for me, but for my entire family as well. For example, work after 9:30 pm is a no-go!

3.) “Working from home isn’t real work”. – A lie from the pit of hell. Listen, working from home is a privilege, and privileges can be stripped. Oftentimes, I find myself working a bit harder than the in-office worker. Computer is a bit wonky? I am responsible for getting the kinks out so I can work. Need an ergonomic work chair? It is out of my pocket, buddy. Have an ultra-annoying customer on the line? Deal with it, because my manager and team leader are 5 states away and not always readily available. In short, everyone doesn’t need to be micro-managed but all are not ready for the idea of working solo.

Despite all of what I’ve mentioned, I love working from home, but the real question is : do I want to continue to work from home providing customer service to angry consumers? Uh, not really. But it has allowed to learn some new skills to list on my resume, meet some cool folks, and prep for the next adventure in land of work!

‘Til next time!

Things that I’m loving right now: Cali edition!!!

I’ve just returned from northern California ( Sacramento to be exact) to visit family and I LOVED it! The weather, family, sights of the city and every where leading to the Bay Area was absolutely wonderful. The best thing about traveling is that you become acquainted with things that are not available back home. So, I decided to fill you in on those yummy things that caught my eye!

1.) Nation’s Giant Hamburgers- My hubby and my cousin had already “warned” me about the deliciousness of this food found at this chain, and the burger was great! Lightly toasted bun, burger piled high with sliced white onion, tomato, lettuce, pickles…..1/4 pound beef patty adorned with nice melty cheese….all that. The blueberry cheesecake that I ordered for dessert was absolutely divine. HOWEVER, if I had to make a choice between Texas-based Whataburger and Nation’s, Whataburger will win out. EVERY. TIME. Check ’em out here: http://nationsrestaurants.com/

2.) Del Taco- Granted, there are a few Del Taco restaurants in North Texas, but they were in great abundance in Sac ( to my delight )! In my opinion, Del Taco is Taco Bell’s more noble and honest cousin. The food is always fresh, none of the greasiness associated with Taco Hell, and more variety. My fave: Turkey Soft Tacos!!!!!

3.) Souley Vegan- Ah, yes…..Souley Vegan: a vegan restaurant specializing in soul food. Me and my crew ( hubby and kiddos) took a 50 minute drive into the Bay Area to Oakland to try this place out. It was well worth it. Keep in mind, it was vegan, so no meat, no refined sugars, no eggs and no dairy…….so how on earth did their mac n cheeze get so “creamy” ( for lack of a better word)????? Was it magic?! While my hubby ordered the broccoli and wild rice “cheeze” casserole, I indulged in the “shrimp” po-boy. Yes, it was diced up marinated seitan, dusted in cornmeal, and deep fried to Southern perfection. It was then laid on pillows of shredded lettuce on nice fluffy-soft French bread. It was further dressed with a drizzle of tartar sauce, and with a generous squeeze of lemon, sent my taste buds into overdrive. (See here: IMG_20160322_105246) I washed all of that down with orange-infused water ( again no refined sugar) and picked up a slice of red velvet cake for dessert. The taste of the red velvet was spot-on, and I could not tell the difference between that and regular boxed cake mix made with the usual stuff. Peep the deets here: http://www.souleyvegan.com/

4.) Roundtable Pizza – Roundtable Pizza came highly recommended by both my hubby and mother-in-law, and it did not disappoint. I had a personal size veggie pizza with garlic alfredo sauce, and it was delicious! The crust had a nice chew to it without being too hard. The cheese pizza was good as well- nice, bubbly cheese browned to pizza perfection on a hand tossed crust. It was definitely a grade above Domino’s! Here’s the link to the company website: http://www.roundtablepizza.com/rtp/